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Elected officials seek second DMV office in Eastern Panhandle

July 14, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Bob Tabb is a farmer by trade, but he played the role of an investigative journalist a couple of weeks ago during a visit to the Division of Motor Vehicles office in Martinsburg.

Taking notes and counting heads, Tabb, who needed to renew licenses, said the visit served as an example of why a DMV office should be opened in Charles Town, W.Va.

Although the office opens at 8:30 a.m., Tabb got in line at 7:45 a.m. - behind 75 to 100 other early risers. Traffic for the DMV's drive-through was backed up onto Edwin Miller Boulevard to a nearby Sheetz, Tabb said.

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After calling the DMV's commissioner to apprise him of the situation and ask him whether a full staff was working, Tabb finally walked out of the office around 10:15 a.m.

Tabb, a member of the House of Delegates, and state Sen. John Unger both favor building a DMV office near Charles Town to serve Jefferson County residents.

The office in Martinsburg is the only one in the Eastern Panhandle.

Today, Tabb, D-Jefferson, and Unger, D-Berkeley, will speak during the Jefferson County Commission meeting, updating commissioners on the status of the project and asking for their support.

A bid to build the office was rejected by the governor's office as being too high, and the project might need to be rebid, both Tabb and Unger said Wednesday.

Unger, who is the chairman of the Senate's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he hopes a DMV office will open in Jefferson County in about a year.

Opening such an office is not a desire, it's a necessity, Tabb said.

"The governor said West Virginia is open for business, and I'm holding him to that," Tabb said. "I told them I don't look to take no for an answer. I don't have a Plan B."

The DMV office is the second-busiest of the state's 22 offices, behind the one in Charleston, Tabb said.

Productivity is reduced and wages, especially for self-employed people, can be lost when people have to stand in a line at the DMV for hours, Tabb said.

Tabb said he received a phone call from a constituent who waited for 45 minutes in the DMV's information line, only to be told it would take another 2 hours and 45 minutes to pay a fee at a window before having his photograph taken for a new driver's license.

Rather than wait, the man drove to the DMV office in Romney, W.Va., and was in and out in around 20 minutes. He returned to the Martinsburg office and found that a person who had been in line with him still was waiting, Tabb said.

"I've had more phone calls and comments from people about this issue than any other issue since I've been in the Legislature," Tabb said.

At least $550,000 has been set aside for the project, with the state planning to lease office space for 10 years, both legislators said.

The governor's chief of staff, Larry Puccio, told Unger that all leasing projects were being put on hold to ensure the decisions being made were sound ones businesswise, rather than being made on a political basis.

"This isn't about political favors," Tabb said. "This is about the people."

Neither Tabb nor Unger was sure when or if new bids will be sought. The previous bid called for building the facility in an industrial park in Bardane, on W.Va. 9 outside of Charles Town.

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